Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 4, 2020

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

In most learning situations, we see three elements at work:

We’re given objectives, we get instructed on how to achieve those objectives, and the learning stems from the results that we obtain.

Growing up, this was the learning structure that we had at the core, but there were many others that grew around that time. The only problem was they weren’t common practice and still aren’t.

I’ve covered others before through self-taught learning and deliberate practice. But one other I haven’t covered is habits of mind. These habits are powerful like most of non-traditional learning methods.

For this one, in particular, it can lead to great success and could change your life forever.

What Are “Habits of Mind”?

The habits themselves are nothing new or revolutionary. Developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, the two authors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Successbelieve these habits are less on behavior but more on intent.

The pair writes:

A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties–our most effective actions require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those patterns of intellectual behaviors.

Another way to look at this is that the habits of mind push us to look at problems from different angles. Not only that, but it can be challenging to achieve this as successfully using these habits of mind requires skill, and experience.

So don’t think you’ll achieve mastery of these over a short period of time.

Advertising

The 16 Habits of Mind

But don’t get your hopes down because it’ll be challenging. As I said above, these habits are nothing complicated or new. Chances are you’ve got some of these habits.

The challenge is using those habits in a learning situation to develop yourself further. With that said, here is a rundown of the habits.

  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision
  10. Gathering Data Through All Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humor
  15. Thinking Interdependently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

While knowing the habits is one thing, it’s another to apply them in a learning environment. Below are some examples of each of the habits of mind can be used.

1. Persisting

Persistence is all about not giving up and achieving whatever your goal is. Over the years, there have been several examples of this. When it comes to developing this skill, the best thing to do in this scenario is to pull from these examples.

How this helps with learning is that it encourages us to continue learning and working towards our goals.

2. Managing Impulsivity

Remember that habits of mind are designed to find problems that people wouldn’t find on the first go. This is key because whenever we see problems, we are quick to act on impulse. We don’t bother to think about other options.

This habit of mind helps us to hesitate, but only to consider other possible scenarios. In other words, you want to be practicing patience when coming up with solutions and deciding how to act.

How this helps in a learning situation is it pushes us to weigh our options when presented with a problem.

3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Many of us listen in order to reply rather than listen to understand and relate to the person. In conversations, we can find ourselves comparing, judging, placating or offering advice rather than listening and understanding a message.

To improve those skills, catch yourself whenever you do those sorts of things. This can also help in learning because when we are listening to understand, we have a deeper grasp of concepts, and the problems.

Advertising

4. Thinking Flexibly

We all have opinions and perspectives of reality and that bias seeps into everything that we see and what we read and learn. For this specific habit of mind, developing this requires us to look at things from a different angle.

That’s not to say to look at everything with skepticism, but rather to use a different perspective than our own or the original speakers. Place yourself in different shoes and walk around in them as they say.

How this applies to learning environments is that when we use different angles, there’s a deeper understanding. Knowing one side of a problem is good, but knowing where both parties are coming from is even better.

5. Metacognition

Otherwise known as thinking about thinking, developing this habit comes down to that. It’s important that you’re aware of your thinking process.

How you do that comes down to charting a map. A good example is drawing up a diagram of relationships. It’s a map that details the relationship between a want and a need as well as a gesture and a need to gesture.

6. Striving for Accuracy

This habit of mind is ensuring that what you are doing is accurate. How would you know if you’re doing it right without someone telling you it’s correct?

While you don’t want to be reliant on people’s opinions, it is still helpful to get others to check what you’re doing is proper and that you are making progress.

This is why it helps to have at least two or three people review your work before it moves on. Provided that reviewing is possible.

7. Questioning and Posing Problems

Learning stems from presenting problems and asking questions. For some generations, this is second nature as many aren’t afraid to go to google and figure things out. Developing this habit stems from this as well.

That or if you are in the middle of something, you could write questions down on post-it notes.

Advertising

8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

Another part of the habits of mind is that these develop through experiences. These experiences can be recent or they can stem from the past. Recalling previous knowledge and applying it to new situations can have it’s merits.

By no means is it always the best solution on the table, but knowing what was done in the past can add a deeper understanding. Either way pulling from an area you’re already comfortable in can improve learning.

9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision

This one goes hand in hand with listening with understanding and empathy. The idea behind this habit of mind is to speak directly to people and avoid being vague, abstract or using imprecisions.

Examples of these words are always, all, everybody, celebrities, technology.

It’s not that using these words is bad or improper. Being able to speak directly and to think with a narrow focus helps in approaching a problem. Just because one piece of technology is faulty, doesn’t make all technology faulty. When addressing a problem and communicating, we need to focus on the specific point first.

10. Gathering Data Through All Senses

What this means is looking at various sources when it comes to learning. Of course, the quality of the source is important but pulling from sources like sensory data, blogs, and other third-party sources can have its merits.

11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating

Learning can be pulled from all kinds of different methods. It’s also good for you to be keeping the creative side of ourselves active as well seeing as it can provide opportunities for us to think of new solutions.

Similar to being flexible with our thinking, tapping into other regions that we may not excel in can help.

12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe

If you see learning as a chore, chances are you won’t be retaining any information. It’s important that we have a passion for the subject and that we’re eager to learn and indulge in the topic.

Responding with awe and wonderment is one of the side effects when we are interested in a topic.

Advertising

13. Taking Responsible Risks

For this habit of mind, this prioritizes how we see failure and when to take risks. It’s important to see failure as an improvement to grow rather than something to get punished for.

14. Finding Humor

Humor can bring things back to reality as we find all kinds of things funny. While what you are learning could be serious, tying it into stories that cause positive emotions will help in making it stick.

15. Thinking Interdependently

Today this is easier to achieve thanks in part to social media. Because we are all connected, it’s easy for us to connect our thoughts with other people. Every single day, more content is published and shared and consuming that can help us in this area.

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

The last of the habits of mind is learning continuously. As the habit suggests, learning is constant and old ideas need to be revised. After all, we know how problematic it can be when methods or views are dated.

The world is on the move to growing and improving day after day — online and offline. It’s up to us to stay up to speed by developing ourselves too: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

Final Thoughts

The habits of mind focus heavily on our own experiences and skills in the world. The more we get out to experience life, the more that we will learn and hone these 16 skills.

By taking these skills to heart and applying them in learning, we can begin to change our lives as the knowledge we gain can be applied in many facets of our lives. The habits of mind are indeed the keys to our success and growth.

More on Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language? Science Will Tell You Delegation of Authority: The Complete Guide for Effective Leaders How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips 12 Things High Self-Esteem People Don’t Do A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

Trending in Smartcut

1 27 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals Fast 2 A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success 3 22 Best Habit Tracking Apps You Need in 2020 4 How to Break Bad Habits (The Only Effective Way) 5 How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on October 13, 2020

How to Unleash the 4 Types of Creativity In You

How to Unleash the 4 Types of Creativity In You

Human history has no shortage of brilliant minds: writers, musicians, inventors, entrepreneurs, and more. Not everyone chooses a creative career, but all of us could use the power of creativity to live brighter, more fulfilling, and more successful lives instead of going through the same motions day in, day out.

Could one become more creative?

A one-size-fits-all answer is hard to give because there are different types of creativity. Do you want to know the least useful type?

1. Least Useful Type of Creativity

It is “Ideation creativity”—the good old coming up with new ideas.

Surprised?

There exist techniques for producing more and better ideas: idea buckets, brainstorming games, and first principles thinking. Those are specialized creativity tools used by composers, novelists, and serial entrepreneurs—not so much by the remaining 99% of the population.

Do you still want this esoteric knowledge? Then go straight to the masters:

  • Josh Waitzkin, a U.S. Junior chess champion and later a World Champion in the martial art Tai Chi Chuan, has written an autobiography.[1]
  • Gianni Rodari, an Italian children’s book author famous for his Adventures of Cipollino, outlined his approach to teaching fantasy in an actual manual on the subject.[2]
  • Twyla Tharp, a celebrated American dancer and choreographer, wrote a book explaining her creative process. We will revisit this book in a moment.[3]

What Distinguishes Creative People (Aside From Their Ideas)?

Anyone can have interesting ideas—would it not be nice to build a flying car, create a musical about South American tribes, cold-email the French president, or ask to get hired as the next prime minister?

Just like yourself, billions of people are also touched by beautiful sunsets and would like to double their respective incomes—but this does not automatically make all of them artists or entrepreneurs.

Only those who have acted upon their ideas or emotions and produced tangible outcomes can be labeled “creative.” Mozart and Jane Austen became so famous because of their results—the symphonies and novels that they had respectively produced—not because of their ideas.

Creativity Does Not Require So-Called Inspiration

A related misconception is that masterpieces are created in “Eureka!” moments—extraordinary bursts of creativity and otherworldly inspiration.

The exclamation “Eureka!” refers to the apocryphal story about the ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes who was taking a bath and stumbled upon a solution to a difficult problem he had been thinking about.

Advertising

But consider that Mozart composed over 600 musical works in his lifetime including 50 symphonies.[4] He would have needed thousands of “Eureka!” moments to produce such a staggering amount of world-class music, which is about one per week of his short career. This is clearly absurd—extraordinary moments of inspiration are rare by definition.

Acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp believes it was all hard work,[5]

Nobody worked harder than Mozart. By the time he was twenty-eight years old, his hands were deformed because of all the hours he had spent practicing, performing, and gripping a quill pen to compose. . . . As Mozart himself wrote to a friend, “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

Creativity can only be manifested during a creative process, whether it is trying a new dish in the kitchen, composing a new symphony, or figuring out how to help your child get into a good college. If you have never played a musical instrument, you are not going to suddenly produce a symphony after doing a creativity exercise.

This brings us to the most useful but underrated type of creativity:

2. “Kaizen”: Finding Ways to Improve a Process

What would be a non-creative approach to any activity? It would be doing the same thing every day in the same way.

Therefore, a creative approach would be constantly varying what you are doing and the way you are doing it. Sometimes, it means adding complexity, such as experimenting with sophisticated dishes for dinner to keep your family happy.

Other times, it means reducing complexity. When mass production was still in its infancy, engineers at the Ford Motor Company used a great deal of creativity to speed up the process:[6]

In the past a worker—and he had to be a skilled worker—had made a flywheel magneto from start to finish. A good employee could make thirty-five or forty a day. Now, however, there was an assembly line for magnetos. It was divided into twenty-nine different operations performed by twenty-nine different men. In the old system it took twenty minutes to make a magneto; now it took thirteen.

Ironically enough, a few decades later Japanese car manufacturers ended up overcoming the big American ones including the Ford Motor Company itself. The approach that made it possible is often translated as “kaizen” or never-ending incremental, continuous improvement.

Kaizen type of creativity entails continuous improvements in your process:

  • today you research a new dish to make for dinner,
  • tomorrow you try making it in less time,
  • the next day you try varying the ingredients,
  • the next day you discuss your recipe with others,
  • the next day you take a class on that same recipe,
  • the next day you research the nutritional properties of the ingredients.

This is the mindset of an aspiring world-class chef and by adopting it, you will become very creative in the kitchen indeed!

Advertising

3. Transformational Type of Creativity: Change Your Life

You may be arguing that it is all good for Mozart, Jane Austen, or Twyla Tharp to be creative because they were engaged in creative activities full-time.

How could one find creativity in an uninspiring job? How could one creatively spend leisure after-work time?

A piece of common advice is to “work on your goals,” but most of us do not have clear goals, let alone a specific life plan telling us exactly how to employ the time at our disposal.

The time-honored answer is, “if you do not like something about your life, figure out how to change it.” Goals or no goals, this is your life. Take responsibility for it because nobody else will.

This is where transformational creativity comes into the picture. Transformational creativity is not decorating the wall of your cubicle with cute cat stickers to make the job tolerable; it is taking an evening course so you can move to a more enjoyable line of work.

Transformational creativity is not throwing random ingredients into a pot hoping for a miracle; it is befriending a gourmet chef who can teach you some serious kitchen magic. Transformational creativity is not trying all ice cream flavors at a local parlor; it is making up your own flavor, or better yet, opening up your own ice cream shop!

Transformational creativity is taking intelligent steps towards the life that you want and away from the life that you do not want. If Kaizen creativity helps you move forward and keep growing, transformational creativity helps you change course.

How Can You Unleash Your Transformational Creativity?

Eliminate the obstacles.

The first obstacle is not knowing what you want in life. A solution is to set goals anyway.

Success expert and bestselling author Brian Tracy recommends setting 10 goals for the next year, but you can start from three: one financial goal, one relationship goal, one health goal:

Your goals may be unrealistic—say, to double your income, go on a date with a celebrity, or complete a marathon, all before the end of the year. This is fine. Eventually, you will learn how to set goals that are motivating and appropriate for you, but you have to start somewhere.

The second obstacle is not wanting your goals badly enough. The solution is to act as if you did.

Advertising

You may decide to write a novel and yet not feel creative or committed because there is no strong emotion underlying this decision. This is fine. Just keep writing, rain, or shine. Your emotions will catch up with you later.

Of course, if you can increase your level of motivation, by all means, do it! One aspiring entrepreneur unleashed creativity and eventually achieved great success after moving from cold and wet Chicago to the sunny Phoenix, Arizona.

Want to know the last type of creativity? It is special in that it offers a shortcut to success. Mozart used it too!

The fourth and last type is named after Dr. Watson, the colleague of the great detective invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

4. Dr. Watson’s Type of Creativity

Sherlock Holmes himself commended his friend and ally Dr. Watson for exhibiting this type of creativity:

It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.[7]

Even if you are not particularly creative yourself, you may be able to do great things by partnering up with someone vastly more experienced and insightful. At the same time, a close association with an accomplished master is one of the best-known ways to cultivate your own creativity—all types of it.

This association can take various forms:

  • a formal mentorship that you are paying for
  • an unstructured mentorship relationship combined with a friendship or a marriage
  • an Executive Assistant-type job that you are paid for
  • an apprenticeship whereas you work on your mentor’s projects without monetary compensation

How Can You Convince a Master to Let You Be Their Dr. Watson?

The single most important quality of Dr. Watson is that he executes on Sherlock Holmes’ ideas, sometimes even risking his own life in the process. It is only through immersing himself in the execution that he can come up with insights which—even if wrong —manage to stimulate Holmes’ powerful imagination.

A second equally important quality of Dr. Watson is that he accepts the overall approach as well as the daily mode of operation set by Holmes and does not question them, except in extreme circumstances.

A little humility and an exemplary work ethic go a long way, but you still need to ask for what you want. If you found a potential mentor online and were able to connect with them, how could you phrase your request?

Here are excerpts from messages sent to a potential mentor by an aspiring mentee that actually worked:

Advertising

  • Nothing short of an honor to be connected with you.
  • Is there any way I can work with you, [Dr. such-and-such]? It would be nothing less than an achievement.
  • I wouldn’t need any money. To be associated with you is a dream I hope I can achieve. Is it possible for you to lay down some guidelines for me, which if I follow, I’ll get to work under you?
  • I will follow all the guidelines and directions you provide, if you do. I can be your first apprentice in [city Y or country Z].
  • I will follow all your directions, guidelines. I want to be under your guidance. Please accept my proposal.

Believe in yourself. Napoleon Hill relates the striking story of Edwin Barnes who wanted to become a business partner of the great inventor Thomas Edison—and he eventually did! He had no money or education; his only advantage was his burning desire combined with persistence.

The book Think and Grow Rich is an absolute gem informed by conversations with some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the day, including Andrew Carnegie himself, with lessons in creativity sprinkled on every page!

Parting Words

The power of creativity to change your life for the better is undeniable.

Ideation creativity is the most overrated type: unless and until you specifically decide to become an artist, a book author, an inventor, or someone similar, it is irrelevant.

The most practical type of creativity is Kaizen, finding ways to continuously improve a process. Specific advice can be found in countless books on forming better habits including Leon Ho’s 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect Of Your Life. So long as you have a process that you keep improving from time to time, you are on the right track.

Transformational creativity can change your life, though it does require courage, ingenuity, and most of all, persistence. Just keep making one little change at a time and your life will unfold like a piece of art. Even if you feel no motivation whatsoever, it is fine. Creativity is a state of mind and can override your emotions.

Perhaps the most empowering type is Dr. Watson’s creativity, which entails aligning yourself with a master whom you can learn from. Here, the sky is the limit. but you do have to give—sometimes a lot—to be able to benefit as greatly as Dr. Watson did from his association with Sherlock Holmes.

Pick one type of creativity that you want to develop and discuss it with a friend. And remember the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

More on Thinking Creatively

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next